Though best known as a smooth-fielding All-Star shortstop for the Cubs, he also had a “brief but interesting stay on the South Side.”

“Don’t Tell Them any Different”: Don Kessinger Night Caps a Long Career

This article was written by Mark Randall

This article was published in The National Pastime: Baseball in Chicago (2015)

On September 8, 1978, North Side and South Side fans finally found something they could agree on: Don Kessinger.[fn]Logan, Bob. “Kessinger A Unanimous Winner in Chicago Again.” Chicago Tribune, September 9, 1978.[/fn] Fans from Chicago’s two storied baseball teams came together to cheer the veteran infielder at Comiskey Park on a special promotion night arranged by Sox owner Bill Veeck to salute Kessinger, one of the lucky few to have played for both the Cubs and White Sox. The game drew 30,270 fans, and as the Sporting News noted, “a large segment of the crowd consisted of Cubs fans in honor of his eleven years with the Cubs.”[fn]Dozer, Richard. “Gate Sings Happy Tune as ChiSox Stand Still.” The Sporting News, September 30, 1978.[/fn]

Though best known as a smooth-fielding All-Star shortstop for the Cubs of the 1960s and early 1970s, Kessinger also had a “brief but interesting stay on the South side.”[fn] “North Side-South Side: Don Kessinger.” Weblog entry. Wrigley Wax. February 20, 2009.[/fn] After a brief exile to St. Louis, Kessinger was traded to the White Sox on August 20, 1977, to shore up a leaky infield.

Though best known as a smooth-fielding All-Star shortstop for the Cubs, he also had a “brief but interesting stay on the South Side.”The Kessinger Night promotion couldn’t have been timed better. The Sox were returning home from a short trip having won three of four games, and Kessinger had “played a major role in most of them.”[fn]Dozer, Richard. “Kessinger Keeps Going: No Thoughts of Retiring.” The Sporting News, September 9, 1978.[/fn] At one stretch of the season, he went 11-for-21 and had raised his batting average to around .270. Kessinger was surprised when Veeck told him what he was planning to do—he never thought of himself as the type of player who deserved a day. “Boy that was a special treat that night,” Kessinger reflected. “It’s just one of those things that is an unreal experience. I was totally shocked when Bill Veeck said that is what he wanted to do. I was just thrilled to death. I was just happy to be there and be playing and enjoying what I do.”[fn]Kessinger, Don. Personal interview. December 11, 2014.[/fn] The veteran admitted that he hadn’t felt as nervous since being a rookie in 1964.

He was joined on this special night by his wife, Carolyn, and two sons, Keith and Kevin, who had flown in from their Memphis home. Kessinger looked on as master of ceremony Harry Caray trotted out ex-Cubs teammates and other dignitaries. Kessinger enjoyed the banter, at one point joking with former teammate Ernie Banks, “Ernie, they wouldn’t be having this night for me if you hadn’t dug my throws out of the dirt all those years. Come to think of it, I’d probably be in the Hall of Fame if you picked them all up.”[fn]Logan, Bob. “Kessinger A Unanimous Winner in Chicago Again.” Chicago Tribune, September 9, 1978.[/fn] Kessinger and his family received everything from two ponies for their Memphis acreage to a round-trip flight to Hawaii courtesy of United Airlines.

“It was too much to put into words,” Kessinger said that night. “I’ve gotten nothing but kindness and respect here for all those years. I’ve got to try and give it back to such wonderful fans.”[fn]Logan, Bob. “Kessinger A Unanimous Winner in Chicago Again.” Chicago Tribune, September 9, 1978.[/fn] The Sox won the game 3–2 over the Seattle Mariners, and although Kessinger went hitless, “he handled seven chances, two brilliantly.”[fn]Dozer, Richard. “Gate Sings Happy Tune as ChiSox Stand Still.” The Sporting News, September 30, 1978.[/fn]

Chicago fans had good reason to cheer him. Kessinger played with grace and consistency during his years with the Cubs and White Sox. From 1965 through 1969, Kessinger joined with Glenn Beckert, Ron Santo, and Ernie Banks to make up one of the most famous infields in baseball history. “They called that the Million Dollar Infield in Chicago,” said Kessinger. “Glenn Beckert used to tell me, ‘yeah, but $900,000 is on the corners.’ They were unbelievable. They were not only great players, they were great friends and teammates. It was a wonderful thing. And we got to do something that doesn’t happen much these days. There wasn’t free agency then. So we stayed together for a long time.”

“Defense and durability,” writes Al Yellon of the fan website Bleed Cubbie Blue, “is what Don Kessinger brought to the Cubs for eleven years as the starting shortstop. Fans remember Kessinger going far to his right, gloving the ball, and then in one graceful motion, reverse in the air as he whipped the ball to first base to retire the batter.”[fn]Yellon, Al. “The Top 100 Cubs of All Time: #67 Don Kessinger.” Bleed Cubbie Blue: A Chicago Cubs Community. January 7, 2007.[/fn]

Children who watched Kessinger on television widely copied his “boarding-house reach” on play grounds and in Little League. Cubs pitcher Ferguson Jenkins told Caray, then the Cardinals’ radio voice, in a pregame interview on July 4, 1969, “In the past five games he’s made many great plays to his right. Don has this play down pat.”

Kessinger initially struggled in his first exposure to the big leagues, hitting only .201 and committing a league-leading 28 errors in his rookie year of 1965. Including a Father’s Day doubleheader against the Reds in Cincinnati, Kessinger had started eleven games at shortstop and had already committed nine errors. Despite his throwing miscues, however, Kessinger showed promise with his excellent range, and Cubs manager Lou Klein stuck with him. “That doesn’t worry me,” Klein told reporters. “This boy can play shortstop. That much I know.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Reds second baseman Pete Rose gave him some advice. “Pete kept telling me, ‘Relax, relax. Don’t worry. Just throw the ball,’” Kessinger told reporters. “Everybody has been trying to get me to relax. Glenn (Beckert) hollers at me a lot during the games and yells, ‘You okay?’ Then he laughs and smiles and says, ‘Everything alright with you?’”[fn]Ibid.[/fn] Klein told Kessinger the same thing. “If you’re going to throw it away, throw it away good. Don’t be afraid to let loose.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn] Coaches and even sportswriters remained convinced Kessinger would be a star. “There doesn’t seem to be any question that he will be one of baseball’s best shortstops in the near future,” Jerome Holtzman of The Sporting News wrote. Manager Klein agreed. “Put him down in your book,” Klein said. “This boy will make it. And he’ll make it big.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Teammate Ron Santo also had confidence in the rookie. “When Kessinger first came up, he made a lot of mistakes,” Santo told reporters going in to the 1966 season. “But after all, he was young, green, and scared.”[fn]Munzel, Edgar. “Santo Speaking: Hottest Infield Gloves in N.L. Belong to Cubs.” The Sporting News, February 5, 1966.[/fn] He noted that after being around just a month in the league, Kessinger was already making some fantastic plays. “He has as good an arm as any shortstop in the league and he can make that play in the hole,” Santo said. “There are still a few things that need polishing in his pivot work at second, but he and Beckert were clicking pretty well before the season was over.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Kessinger continued to improve his fielding and in 1968 was recognized as one of the National League’s top shortstops when he was voted to start at shortstop in the year’s All-Star game. “I hadn’t been in the league long,” Kessinger recalled. “The All-Star game was in Houston. I’ll never forget walking into the old Astrodome. I walked into the locker room and looked around at Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente and Bob Gibson. You think, ‘what am I doing here?’ But I was thrilled to death. I told my wife before the game I hope I do well. I don’t want to make an error. I know I am here because I am supposed to be able to play defense. I’d love to get a hit. But I don’t want to make an error.”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn] The midsummer classic was played on July 9, 1968. Kessinger was 0-for-2, but the NL won the game, 1–0.

Kessinger remained a cornerstone of the Cubs infield and repeated as an All-Star each year through 1972 and made the squad again in 1974. “I played in six All-Star games of which we won five,” Kessinger said. “The one we lost (in Detroit) is remembered for the colossal home run Reggie Jackson hit there.”[fn]Vassallo, Steve. “Baseball Great, Oxonian, Don Kessinger All-Around Role Model.” October 22, 2014. www.[/fn]

In 1969, Kessinger set a major league fielding record for shortstops on June 15 against the Cincinnati Reds when he played his 54th straight errorless game, breaking the single-season record previously set by Chico Carrasquel in 1951. Kessinger’s streak was stopped when he recorded an error in the second game of that day’s doubleheader. “It was a little surprising to me that I went that long without making an error,” Kessinger reflected. “When I finally did make an error, it was a routine ground ball in Cincinnati hit right at me that went right through my legs. You wonder, ‘what did I do different?’”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn]

Kessinger led NL shortstops three times in putouts, four times in assists, four times in double plays, and once in fielding percentage. He won Gold Gloves in 1969 and 1970. “I always used to pride myself on being the guy who led the league in assists,” Kessinger said. “I always felt like the balls I could get to would help my team.”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn]

While not known for his offense, Kessinger eventually became a reliable hitter. After his struggles at the plate in 1965, Kessinger decided to try switch-hitting. The 24-year-old reported to the Cubs’ 1966 early-bird spring training camp in Escondido hoping to learn to hit lefty. Lou Klein, who was running the camp, discouraged him. “When I told him I’d like to try switching, Lou said, ‘Look, let’s work with what we’ve got,’” Kessinger said.[fn]Holtzman, Jerome. “Switch-Hit Miracle: Kessinger Lifts Bat Mark by 50 points.” The Sporting News, September 3, 1966.[/fn] Kessinger spent the spring trying to improve right-handed, but despite Klein’s rebuff, continued to take swings in the batting cage from the left side. New Cubs manager Leo Durocher liked the idea and encouraged it. In mid-May, Durocher was discussing Kessinger with Cubs VP of player personnel John Holland, who told the manager of Kessinger’s interest in switch-hitting. “I said, ‘John, that’s great,’” Durocher recalled. “’We know one thing. This boy isn’t going to hit much right-handed. Let’s try him.’”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

A few days later, on May 19 with the Cubs leading Houston 7–0, Durocher told Kessinger to hit from the left side his next trip to the plate. Kessinger hit a line drive to center off Houston right-hander Gary Kroll, and in his next at-bat—also as a lefty—against Don Lee, lined to shortstop. The Sporting News noted that “from the looks of things now, this move could change him from an ordinary ball player into one with possibilities.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn] Durocher concurred. “He’s going to be a good one, all right,” then corrected himself. “He’s a good one right now.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Kessinger said it wasn’t difficult learning to swing from the left side because he had been a basketball player at the University of Mississippi and always had a strong left hand. With the help of coach Pete Reiser, his hitting improved from .228 in the first half of the season to .309 during the second half as he finished at .274. “I felt I had to do this to survive and remain in the big leagues,” Kessinger reflected. “In retrospect, it was the right decision.”[fn]Vassallo.[/fn]

His best all-around season came in 1969 when he hit .273 with career highs in home runs, hits, runs, doubles, and RBIs. On June 17, 1971, Kessinger had his best day ever at the plate when he went 6-for-6 against the Cardinals, becoming the 62nd player in league history to get six hits in one game. He remains one of the last Cubs players to achieve the feat. “It was a week’s work in one day,” said manager Leo Durocher.[fn]Associated Press. “Week For Kessinger, Cards Just Weak.” June 18, 1971.[/fn] Kessinger led the Cubs to a 7–6 10-inning victory over the Cardinals with five singles and a double, scoring three runs and knocking in one. “It’s just one of those once-in-a-lifetime things,” Kessinger told reporters.[fn]Ibid.[/fn] “And I’m glad it wasn’t wasted because we won the game.” Teammate Joe Pepitone, who had helped propel the Cubs with his bat to three wins in the last week, joked, “I’m glad you guys finally helped out. I can’t keep doing it all every day.” Kessinger added, “You just have to be lucky to have a day like this. I was just swinging the bat and the hits just kept falling in.”

Kessinger got four of those hits against Steve Carlton and remembers not wanting to play that day. “When I left home that morning to come to the ball park I said to my wife Carolyn that I wished it would rain us out. In fact, I’d like to have a day off just to rest a little,” Kessinger reflected. “I told her Steve Carlton was pitching. He was a great pitcher. You don’t usually have a lot of luck against a great pitcher like Steve… I just went to the park and my first four at-bats I had line drive base hits off Steve. It’s another one of those things that’s not supposed to happen to a guy like me.”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn]

From 1967 through 1972, the Cubs fielded one of the best teams in baseball. In addition to that famous infield, the team also had standouts Randy Hundley at catcher, future Hall of Famer Billy Williams in left field, and a stellar starting trio of Ferguson Jenkins (also a future Hall-of-Famer), Bill Hands, and Ken Holtzman. “They worked hard and cared about playing,” Kessinger said. “Billy Williams is the best hitter I ever played with. He had such a sweet swing. He could just hit. And Fergie was just a model of consistency. If he told you he was going to pitch a guy a certain way … that’s what he did. He had the ability to do it. We just had a good ballclub.”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn]

But despite a record of 515 wins and 449 losses over that six-year span, the Cubs never won a pennant or even made it to the post-season. The Cubs finished second three times (1969, 1970, and 1972) and third three times (1967, 1968, and 1971).

Don Kessinger will go to his grave believing that the Cubs had a better team in 1969 than the eventual NL East champion New York Mets. Many sports historians have called the 1969 Cubs team the greatest second-place team of all time. The season started with high hopes for the Cubs but ended in one of the most monumental collapses in Chicago baseball history. From Opening Day on, the Cubs held first place for 155 days, but a late-season 8–18 swoon and a concurrent Mets surge reversed the course. The Cubs led the Mets by 9½ games on August 14 but ended the season in second place, eight games out. 

So what caused the collapse? Was it bad luck? A black cat appeared on the field during a 7–1 loss to the Mets on September 9 that reduced the Cubs lead to half a game. Or was the team just worn down? Sportswriters of the time and historians have noted that the Cubs’ offense, fielding, and pitching all failed during that last crucial month.  From August 1 through the end of the season the heart of the Cubs lineup slumped. Kessinger was batting .296 but hit only .223 the rest of the season. In Durocher’s Cubs: The Greatest Team That Didn’t Win, author David Claerbaut concludes that Durocher bears the brunt of the blame because he failed to adequately use his bench. He rode his veterans hard and created unnecessary tension by fighting with players, sportswriters, and even fans.

Looking back, Kessinger believes the race turned on a combination of factors and is quick to give the Mets their due credit. “Everybody has an opinion of what happened,” Kessinger said in a December 2014 interview. “But the main thing that happened was the Mets won, like, 38 games. Let’s don’t forget they earned it. The last month, nobody was better than them.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn] He believes that playing all day games without much rest also took a toll on the Cubs. “I speak for me, but yes, I think down the stretch we were more tired than some of the other teams,” Kessinger continued. “I’m not criticizing Leo for not playing other players. I think when we reached for the little extra, it wasn’t there. And it did get tough because the Mets won every day. Daggum, we were looking at them and they won every day…not that we choked or folded. It appears that we did. But I will never remember it that way. For a period of three or four years we were as good as any team in baseball. And I will go to my grave believing we were the best team in baseball [in 1969]. And for a lot of days we proved it.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

The Cubs would never be the same though after 1969. Over the next few years, Kessinger watched as ownership packed off the players from that famous team. Ernie Banks retired in 1971. Ken Holtzman went to Oakland in 1972. Ron Santo and Glenn Beckert were traded after the 1973 season to the White Sox and San Diego Padres. Pitcher Ferguson Jenkins also went in 1973 to Texas, and batting star Billy Williams was traded after the 1974 season to Oakland. Randy Hundley was traded to the Twins in 1973. And Jim Hickman went to the Cardinals in 1974. By then, Kessinger was the last remaining player from the 1969 team.

Then, in October 1975, after 11 seasons with the Cubs, Kessinger was traded to the Cardinals for pitcher Mike Garman and a player to be named. The move came as no surprise. “I knew halfway through that season that I was the last one remaining and they were making changes in the organization,” Kessinger reflected. “Jim Marshall had come in as the new manager. So I knew at the end of the year that I was likely not coming back.”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn]

Kessinger had a somewhat down year for the Cubs in 1975. He batted .243 but also hit 26 doubles and 10 triples. As a ten-year veteran, Kessinger could have refused the trade, but instead was excited to be going to the Cardinals, a good team and the one he had rooted for as a kid. “Kind of ironic isn’t it?” Kessinger said. “I mean, 11 years a Cub. The Cardinals were our arch-enemies. Not that I minded. As a kid in Forest City [Arkansas] I grew up as a Cardinals fan. Let’s just say this was a good trade from a personal standpoint. You see, I wanted to go to a club that had a chance of winning.”[fn]Smith, John. “Kessinger: This Ex-Cub Finally Gets His Day.” The Evening Independent, March 8, 1976.[/fn]

He also felt he still had a few more good years of baseball left. “I certainly haven’t lost any of my speed,” Kessinger said. “Far from it. I’ve still got the range at short. I can do more now to help a club than I ever could. I’m a better hitter now than I’ve ever been. And I’m a smarter ball player.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Cardinals general manager Bing Devine noted that Kessinger was still solid in the field, still possessed a good batting eye, and “has been especially durable. He misses few games annually, and never missed four in a row.”[fn]Russo, Neal. “Can Still Do Job Kessinger Assures Cards.” The Sporting News, November 15, 1975.[/fn] Kessinger was sad to leave the Cubs and Chicago, but did so with no bitterness. “I have nothing but respect for the Cubs,” Kessinger said at the time of the trade. “I enjoyed my 11 years with them. I wish them nothing but the best for all concerned.”[fn]Associated Press. “Cubs Trade Kessinger To Cardinals.” October 29, 1974.[/fn]

Kessinger’s stay in St. Louis, though, proved short. The 33-year-old hit only .239 for the Cardinals and lost his starting job to Garry Templeton. In August 1977, Kessinger was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Steve Staniland. “The Cardinals brought up Garry Templeton at the end of the year,” Kessinger said. “He was their prospect of the future. And I knew it was going to be that way. I was going to be in a utility role. They had asked me to work with Garry. I wanted to play, but I was content to do that.”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn]

Kessinger was glad to return to Chicago. “I just talked to Bill Veeck and I can’t tell you how it feels to be returning to a place where you’re really wanted,” Kessinger said. “Returning to Chicago is returning to my baseball home.”[fn]Condon, David. “Kessinger Glad To Return Home.” Chicago Tribune, August 21, 1977.[/fn] Kessinger’s wife was also glad to be returning to Chicago, albeit to the south side. “We sold our home in Northbrook when the Cubs traded us,” she said. “Now we have a permanent home in Memphis. But we’ll get to Chicago and find us quarters on the north shore. Oh goodness. We’re southsiders now, aren’t we?”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

The Sox had acquired Kessinger to shore up a leaky infield; everyday shortstop Alan Bannister had made 28 errors. Kessinger’s first game at Comiskey Park came August 22, 1977, against the Yankees. Manager Bob Lemon inserted him as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning. Kessinger admitted he was nervous about the reception he would get from the fans after having spent all those years with the Cubs, but he needn’t have worried.  “One of the greatest days of my life was my first game in Comiskey,” Kessinger recalled. “I was sitting on the bench and Bob Lemon came down to see me and said if Lamar Johnson gets on base, you go and run for him.  I’m not sure if I wanted Lamar to get a hit or not.  My thing was, ‘are they going to hate me for being a Cub?’ But when I ran on that field they gave me a standing ovation. It was the most heartwarming feeling I ever had in baseball. When I was standing at second base with tears running down my face Bucky Dent, the shortstop for the Yankees, came up and said, ‘What have you done to these people?’ I said, ‘Man, I don’t know. But don’t tell them any different.’ I had no idea. But they certainly treated me with unbelievable respect.”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn]

Kessinger played in 131 games for the White Sox in 1978 and was owner Bill Veeck’s surprise choice to manage the team in 1979. Veeck told the media that Kessinger had “outstanding leadership qualities and would be particularly suited to leading the young defensive club that the Sox will field next year. The youngsters confide in him. While he is a nice man, he’s also a very determined man with a desire to win in a nice, quiet, decent way.”[fn]Associated Press. “White Sox Name Don Kessinger Player-Manager,” October 20, 1978.[/fn] Kessinger replaced Larry Doby, who had taken over after Bob Lemon was fired.

“It’s very difficult for me to replace Larry Doby,” Kessinger told the press. “It is difficult for me to take over from a good friend. I didn’t solicit the job. But I’m delighted at getting the job and also very happy for our new coaching staff because of my inexperience as manager.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn] Veeck had taken out some insurance by hiring Bobby Winkles, a highly successful coach at Arizona State University and former manager of the A’s, and Joe Sparks, who had been managing the Iowa farm team for the last two seasons, as coaches. “I’m more a Bob Lemon personality,” Kessinger said. “But I learned a lot from Leo (Durocher). He was tough to play for because he was tough to please.”

Kessinger recalled that he took the job reluctantly. His career was winding down and he was looking forward to spending more time with his family. “Bill Veeck called me in toward the end of the 1978 season and said ‘Have you ever thought about managing?’ I said, ‘Yeah, Bill. I don’t think I want to. My kids are living back in Memphis. I think when I am through I’m going to watch my kids grow up because I am missing too much of what they are doing. He said, ‘Well, I’m talking about the White Sox.’”[fn]Ibid.[/fn] Kessinger told Veeck he would think about it and to talk to him about it again once the season was done. “After the season was over he called me and said ‘we don’t have a manager. I want to talk to you,’” Kessinger said. “So I did—reluctantly. But the challenge was there. And I just can’t not do it. So I did.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Kessinger became the last playing manager, to date, in American League history. And he saw his share of strange events. He was managing the Sox on July 12, 1979, the date of the infamous “Disco Demolition Night.” The idea was to demolish a pile of disco records in a symbolic cooling down of disco fever. Fans bringing in a disco record got into the game for 98 cents.

During a break between games of the night’s doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers, Steve Dahl, a disc jockey with Chicago’s WLUP-FM, whipped the crowd into a frenzy during a ceremony that ended with him blowing up a crate of disco records in center field. Thousands of fans surged onto the field and “what began as a fun tongue-in-cheek event quickly became ugly.”[fn]Dozer, Richard. “Sox Promotion Ends in Mob Scene.” Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1979.[/fn] Riot police were called in and made arrests but “were hard put to control the mob which shouted obscenities and tore the park up.”[fn]“Discophobia Out Of Control.” Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1979.[/fn] Police Lt. Robert Reilly remarked, “It’s as bad as the night the Beatles were here.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn] Police made 39 arrests that night and it took 90 minutes to restore order.  The field was unplayable and the Sox were forced to forfeit the game.

Kessinger locked his team in the locker room. “It was a terrible night,” Kessinger recalled. “It was a case of a promotion that was too successful. Nobody saw it coming. I can tell you while we were warming up the stands were chanting ‘Disco sucks!’ the whole time. It just kept going. And people kept coming in. Half were there to watch the ball game and half were there to blow up disco records. And it just got to be a chant constantly and just a really bad deal. I was hoping Steve would calm them down. He walked up to that microphone and he uttered those two words were the first thing he screamed into the mike. I’m sure he was surprised at what happened. It just incited everyone at that point. People piled out of the stands and onto the field. It was just a bad thing. I told all my players to get in the locker room. We locked that door.”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn]

Unfortunately, Kessinger’s tenure as manager did not progress much better. With the team languishing in fifth place, 14 games out of first place, Kessinger asked Bill Veeck to have lunch with him on August 2. The Sox had just completed a 1–8 home stand and were going nowhere. Kessinger told Veeck the club was “playing with a bad attitude” and he didn’t know how to stop the slide. He surprised him by offering to resign. “I realized halfway through the season we weren’t playing that well, and this isn’t what I wanted to do in the future,” Kessinger recalled. “I went in there and just told him. I said ‘Bill, I’m not going to come back next year. We’re not going anywhere this year. It’s your call. I’ll finish the season, or you can call up Tony LaRussa from Triple-A, which I’m sure he was going to do.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

At a press conference, Veeck cited Kessinger’s “class” and “integrity” but made no effort to talk him out of resigning, telling reporters “No, because it was his decision. And you know he’s not a fellow given to hasty decisions, and I obviously had to respect what he wanted to do. He felt it would be helpful if we tried to shake up some of the athletes with a different management.”[fn]Dozer, Richard. “’We Needed Change. Ex-ChiSox Pilot Kessinger.” The Sporting News, August 18, 1979.[/fn] Kessinger added, “I don’t really blame myself for what’s happened, nor do I think Bill Veeck blames me for what happened. I just said to him that I felt maybe a change would help. Bill agreed that a change might help us. I don’t think I did a bad job, and I don’t think Bill feels that way either.” Kessinger also removed himself from the team’s active roster, retiring having played in 2,078 games with a lifetime batting average of .252.

“Chicago is a great sports town,” Kessinger reflected. “I was absolutely blessed to have played there. Their fans just adopted this good ol’ southern boy and treated me like a king. I have nothing but fond memories. I’m just unbelievably thankful to the White Sox for allowing me to finish on such a high note.”[fn]Kessinger interview.[/fn] And, he added, “being able to live in a great city and playing in Wrigley Field were special. Having Hall of Fame teammates such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, and Ron Santo made my career extra special.”[fn]Vassallo.[/fn] 

MARK RANDALL, an award-winning journalist, has for the past 15 years worked at newspapers in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Florida, Utah, Arizona, Alabama, and Utah. He has lived in northeast Arkansas for the past nine years and currently covers local government for the West Memphis Evening Times. Although originally from Massachusetts, he was raised by his grandfather as a New York Yankees fan. While not a hateful person, he absolutely hates the Boston Red Sox. His articles about George Kell and Wally Moon have been published in the “Baseball Research Journal.”